Darth Paradox (darthparadox) wrote,
Darth Paradox
darthparadox

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Caveat emptor


So Shelly bought an Alienware box back in August of 2003. Ever since then, the computer has had some fairly serious problems. At first, the video display was messing up - showing pixel-wide bands of different colors across the screen. Rebooting sometimes fixed it. One driver reinstall and OS reinstall (and a couple months) later, we finally got them to send us a new video card. Fine.

Of course, that wasn't the only problem. Rampant blue screens, occurring randomly... sometimes when the computer was being used heavily, sometimes when it was just sitting there. So of course, we go through a couple cycles of reformat/reinstall as the tech support people (most of whom are incapable of speaking or understanding coherent English) jerk us around, reading from the same support script over and over and making no worthwhile attempt to understand or solve the problem. The entire time, we insist that it's a hardware problem, and most likely the CPU. A couple times, they told us to try testing the memory - which works just fine.

Eventually, Shelly installs a program that calculates Mersenne primes. It has a "torture test" function whereby the computer is put through a series of intense calculations with known results. After about 30 seconds of calculation, the test informs us that the calculation has an error. This occurs repeatedly, with slightly different margins of error. This of course lends credence to our theory that it's a CPU problem. We call tech support again. After a few months of trying to put us through the reformat/reinstall cycle again, we finally get them to agree to send us a part. They tell us they think the CPU's overheating, and so they send us a new heat sink, which arrived a week or so ago, and a tech came out today to install it. (This is something I could have done myself, but I tend to prefer to leave to the professionals - particularly so that their shitty tech support can't blame me if something goes wrong. It's all under warranty anyway.)

So he gets here. We explain the problem, and he just can't believe that they sent out a heat sink when they should have sent a new CPU - particularly when, if the heat sink was faulty enough to be the root cause of the blue screens, it's probably fried the CPU by now. After checking to see if the fans are working well, he calls their tech support to confirm that this is supposedly the correct thing to do, and then proceeds to replace the heat sink.

We get the computer back together, and, surprise, the test still fails. Same thing as before. It's only been an hour, so we don't know whether we're having consistent blue-screen problems yet, but something tells me we will... Anyway, the tech calls Alienware's tech support back, and explains that it didn't fix the problem, and demands to know why they sent a heat sink to replace a computational problem. After bitching at them for the better part of 20 minutes, as well as being put on hold twice, they get around to telling him "oh, we forgot to send the new CPU along with the heat sink, sorry about that."

BULLSHIT. They knew exactly what they were doing. They sent the cheapest possible part that they could convince us could possibly be the cause of the problem, regardless of any technical evidence. As a result, they wasted their money and our time on an inviable solution.

After getting bitched out by the tech, they finally agreed to send us a new CPU. Not before getting hung up on, though... Shelly called back and had to deal with another uncooperative foreigner before she could get back in touch with the guy she was talking to. The tech left after that was settled. But then Shelly checked her email and found a message informing her that they were replacing her Athlon 3200+ with an Opteron 262 that runs at about 70% the clock speed. Shelly got right back on the phone and made sure that the email was a mistake, and not the CPU order... They assured her that the correct CPU is being sent.

Somehow, I'm skeptical.
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